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The Meaning of Open

Photograph by Getty Images

On the day my daughter was born, I was able to watch her arrival into the world, catching her on the way out and cutting the cord myself. After years of battling endometriosis and the resulting infertility, she was my miracle. And her other mommy was my savior.

I hadn't been looking for either of them, having long since let go of the dream of ever having a baby to call my own. I had healed and moved forward—setting my sights on foster care and the goal of eventually adopting an older child. But then one day out of the blue, I was introduced to the woman who would change my life forever: a woman due to give birth in just a week's time, trying to find the right home for her daughter.

Our daughter.

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Nothing about this adoption has been typical. There were no years of waiting, or tens of thousands of dollars to be spent. From that first meeting, everything just fell into place. I felt an immediate connection with this woman. It would not have worked otherwise, because I did not just adopt her daughter—I adopted her and her family as well.

The first time we met, she emphasized her desire for an open adoption. I asked what the meaning of open was in her mind. She explained that she would be grateful for picture updates a few times a year, but that she would work very hard not to step on my toes otherwise.

My heart broke for her. It was clear she wanted more, but did not feel as though she deserved to ask for it. So I explained my thoughts on open; embracing the idea of an arrangement where we would be extended family to each other, not just strangers who had once exchanged a baby. I liked this woman. I respected her. And I saw no reason why our interactions should be limited.

Within days of leaving the hospital, she came to my home to cuddle our little girl.

On the day my daughter was born, her other mommy held her to her breast and fed her the first three times she cried out in hunger. Tears of gratitude sprung to my eyes over this selfless act she was willing to complete, even as the nurses looked at me as though I were playing with fire. I remained confident in her resolve, and grateful for her willingness to give my daughter something I couldn't.

Within days of leaving the hospital, she came to my home to cuddle our little girl. There has been frequent contact between us ever since. I update her with photos at least weekly, and we exchange emails and phone calls like old friends. This year for my birthday, she sent me flowers and a note thanking me for all I have given her.

All I have given her.

The irony of that astounds me.

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The meaning of open is something far more beautiful in my eyes than just the random sharing of photos a few times a year. Our relationship likely extends past some boundaries other families may not be comfortable with, but it works for us. And I can only believe our daughter will be all the better for it someday as well. I cringe at the term "birth mother," because it feels so diminishing of the role this woman will play in our lives. We are both just mothers. Mothers who love this little girl enough to have forged something different.

On the day my daughter was born, I learned the meaning of open. And I have been blessed for it ever since.

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